Thursday, June 30, 2011

Footprints in the Sand: Cape Henlopen

This is one of an extensive series of photographs taken over time of critter footprints on the Cape. I can’t help myself. I love the various kinds of natural traces left behind, and I wish that the only things mankind left behind on our beaches might be our footprints.

The alter ego says, “Dream on, oh loco John!”

To which I reply in my metamodern oscillating performance, “If I can dream it, it can happen, perhaps.”

We need a 501(c)(3) named “Only Our Footprints” to take over the entire planet.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Metamodernism: Part III

Revision of Fantasy and the Surreal in Contemporary Art


Vermeulen and Van den Akker conceptualize one of the main characteristics of the metamodern as a return to Romanticism. However, their definition of Romanticism involves two major ideas. First, Kant’s nineteenth century opposition to idealism, and second, an oscillation between and among many oppositions based in their own theoretical notions.

“…, essentially, the Romantic attitude can be defined precisely by its oscillation between these opposite poles.”

I have previously explored this notion of Romanticism, one that involves Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome in “Metamodernism: Part II”, and “Metamodernism.


Vermeulen and van den Akker also see the following contemporary works and artists as revisiting the Romantic though it is a Romanticism as viewed through the oppositional lens of the Modern versus the Postmodern (reads idealism versus skepticism). They cite the work of Bas Jan Adder’s films and his surreal life as (I guess) a sort of historical antecedent. They include the Rene Daalder film about Bas Jan Adder’s life; “Here is Always Somewhere Else” by way of example. Additionally they give the architects, Herzog and de Meuron prime importance in a Metamodern constellation of stars. The Danish/Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliason’s workshop/factory is given extreme importance as well. The visual artists, Gregory Crewdson, David Lynch, David Thorpe, and Kay Donachie, Glen Rubsamen, Dan Attoe and Armin Boehm are also given as examples of a metamodern Romantic aesthetic. Instead, I find that all of these folks seem to inhabit a space that can only be described as psychological, fantastic and Surreal. At the same time I do not differ with the use of a redefined romantic sensibility to describe the metamodern, though I do wish to broaden it to include the fantastic and surreal as dominant - dominant because most of the cited visual artists' work is fantastic and/or surreal in the Modern sense which removes it and them at least 1 major step from nineteenth century aesthetics. And, my argument is then subsumed within Vermeulen and van den Akker’s notion that the metamodern is situated in and among all these oscillating oppositions. Thus, they can have their cake and eat it too, a very metamodern trope in and of itself.

My alter ego says, "Your jaded Postmodern skepticism is showing, John."

And I reply in schizophrenic fashion,"Yes, but I still favor the term metamodern over any of the other terms meant to describe the Art World after the Postmodern."

At some point in the near future I will take a look at each of the artists mentioned above in relation to Romanticism of the past and/or a contemporary revision of romantic, fantasy based, and/or surreal art.


1. Deleuze, Gilles, & Guattari, Felix, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia, Minneapolis: 1987.

2. Herzog and de Meuron , “Elbe Philharmonic Hall,” ArchDaily, Visited 10:00 AM, Thursday, June 23, 2011 EDT.

3. Kuehn, Manfred, Kant: A Biography. Cambridge University Press, 2001

4. Klomp, John B., “Metamodernism,” & “Metamodernism, Part II,” in The Art of John Bittinger Klomp, Visited 10:30 AM, Thursday, June 23, 2011EDT.

5. Vermeulen, Timotheus, and van den Akker, Robin, “Notes on Metamodernism,” in Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, Vol. 2, 2010 DOI: 10.3402/jac.v1i0.5677. On line at, visited 10:35 AM, EDT, Thursday, June 23, 2011.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cape Henlopen Beach Sand

We haven’t been to Henlopen this year but, here is a photographic trace in the beach sand from years past.

The waves wash in and create serpentine striations in the sand. Critters dig their holes back into the wet sand as the water recedes, and the result is this super macrocosmic landscape. Scale is given by the shell and piece of dried seaweed. If these weren’t there we might be looking down on the desert from an airplane, or perhaps a Martian landscape complete with craters and traces of long lost flowing water.

I take pictures of wave washed sand every chance I get, and I find the tan sand of the middle Atlantic beaches to be especially perfect to making the best sand patterns. Late afternoon light is best to pick out the subtleties in the ‘sandscape.’ I don’t remember the other particulars of this photograph among literally a thousand or more. However, I can tell that the shell was added after the fact because there should be indications of the water’s leave taking, and there aren’t. I will definitely go to the beach this coming week to take more sand photographs.

I envision a gallery wall covered in a grid of beach sand photographs. Across the room the grid is subtle, and the wall simply looks tan, with other "Waterworks" pastels, mixed-media distressed paintings, and photographs hung on it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Atlantic Sunrise

I will start on a painting based on this photograph with additions from several others taken last month when I return to Delaware. It will be the third 32" x 40" pastel painting of an Atlantic Sunrise. The first was a commission, the second waits on my drawing table to be packed and taken to Delaware. I’ve also done one very small 8” x 8” pastel Atlantic Sunrise. As I write I can hear my 2nd year undergraduate painting professor tell the studio class, “Whatever you do, don’t paint sunsets and sunrises. You can’t outdo the real thing, and the results will be so horribly trite no matter how good you are.” I actually passed that bit of idiotic wisdom on to a student of mine once, and it came back to haunt me years latter, when as an adult the student told me how disappointed he was by my statement. Of course I can’t do a better job than the original creator, but I can freeze a moment in time, and make it my own by adding those things - like richer, brighter colors, the full moon perhaps, a pelican, a distortion and/ or a swirl to clouds in front of the sun, a splash in the water, - that I see as most important to the image. So, here I am a repentant Post Postmodern old fart painting trite sunrises, and actually being happy with the results.

I like the way the sun breached the horizon in this image, making a red-orange burst on the horizon. Also, I’m looking forward to rendering the lavender and red-violet reflections of that sunburst on the dark aqua colored water. It’s cool how a seagull happened to fly in from the edge of the framed image just as I pressed the shutter button. I will look at other sunrise photographs I've taken for that something special to add, and I want a thin sliver of a silver moon somewhere in the actual painting. All that will happen next week after the eleven hundred mile trek to Delaware.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Social Realism in the Twenty-first Century?

Part XIV of a series about the possibility of a rebirth of Social Realism in the Post Postmodern (Popomo), based in part on my several LATE NIGHT readings of “Notes on Metamodernism” by Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker. *1


According to my research on the Post Postmodern, Popomo, Metamodern, whichever or whatever, there can be no such thing as a resurgence of Social Realism in the Twenty-first Century.

The alter ego asks. "Why is that, John?”

If I look at Vermeulen and Van den Akker’s notion of the Metamodern, any revived Social Realism would have to be suspended in a state of oscillation somewhere between and/or among Modernist idealism, the Postmodern jaded approach to the world, and the Metamodern/Hypermodern/Post Postmodern conflicted political/social/religious global Twenty-first century cultural systems and practices. These must include the dirty energy versus clean energy dichotomy subsumed within idealized global capitalism, idealized East versus West religious practices, idealized global democracy, and an idealized global open society. As a product of my time and place, I am at once jaded and idealistic. I want Art with social concerns to be visible everywhere, but I also watch Governor Paul LePage (R) stealthily rip down the labor mural in the Maine Department of Labor, and I know that the democratic state is in danger of irreparable damage from such ideologically motivated and sanctioned bullying behavior. I do know that a few artists like Banksy and Denis Peterson are making art that is clearly related to the Social Realism of the past. As a product of the Zeitgeist my own artwork, “The Waterworks,” is an idealistic plea for saving our oceans, and fresh water resources from the ravages of dirty energy and the seemingly built in human propensity to destroy everything and anything we touch.

“Sounds like your caught between a rock and a hard place, John.”

“Yes, dear alter ego. I continue to ‘HOPE’ despite all the nay saying and my own negativity, a totally Metamodern position.”

*1 Vermeulen, Timotheus and Van den Akker, “Notes on Metamodernism, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture eISSN 2000-4214, on the Web at, Viewed Wednesday, 7:57 PM, May 4, 2011. This journal is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Responsible editor: Astrid Söderbergh Widding.

*2 Cochrane, Andy, “Banksy Postmortem” at The AV Club, Posted September 18, 2006, viewed by John 9:40 AM EDT, Tuesday, June 7, 2011.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Metamodernism? Part II

Notes on "Notes on Metamodernism"

Part XIII of a series about the possibility of a rebirth of Social Realism in the Post Postmodern (Popomo). These are some rough ruminations based on my second LATE NIGHT reading of “Notes on Metamodernism” by Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker. *1

Structure Types - it appears to me that all of the following are related in that they all are random, though in different ways.

Rhizomatic –Felix Gauttari and Gilles Deleuze – A Thousand Plateaus (1980)*2

Parataxis – A group of related ideas, statements, concepts, words, put together in no apparent order. What are the similarities or differences to/with Rhizomatic structures?

Pastiche – a hodge-podge a group of seemingly unrelated things hastily put together, as in ET’s communication device. In literature, a hodge-podge of different styles or imitation of various styles in one work.

Metaxis (Gk) Plato –  suspension between and among oppositions.

Nicholas Baurriaud – altermodernism- Vermeulen and Van den Akker argue that Baurriaud confuses knowledge with being / “epistemology with ontology.” However, Hegelian precepts maintain that knowledge and being are of necessity one or human beings would be incapable of functioning within the physical world. I certainly find that knowledge is necessary to functioning well in the physical world. I know that the stove burner is hot from past experience (I accidentally touched it when I was five years old and was physically burned). Thus there is a link between my having been burned (being in the world) and my knowledge of “how to BE” safe in the world. In any event, I’m not at all certain that Verveulen and Van den Akker’s position is any less flawed than Baurriaud’s. Actually I like both explanations of a possible Post Postmodern world despite actual and/or imagined flaws.

Vermeulen and Van den Akker say that epistemologically the metamodern thinks in an “as if” mode, to paraphrase, and liken that to Kant’s notion that humankind performs “as if” it were working toward a goal of perfection even though it knows it isn’t doing so. At the same time, they state the following.

“If you will forgive us for the banality of the metaphor for a moment, the metamodern thus willfully adopts a kind of donkey-and-carrot double-bind. Like a donkey it chases a carrot that it never manages to eat because the carrot is always just beyond its reach. But precisely because it never manages to eat the carrot, it never ends its chase, setting foot in moral realms the modern donkey (having eaten its carrot elsewhere) will never encounter, entering political domains the postmodern donkey (having abandoned the chase) will never come across.

I have a problem deciphering / understanding these statements, because the authors slide from the “metamodern,” to the modern and postmodern without giving notice of the slippery slide from one to the other.

German philosopher Eric Voegelin - One of the claims of the postmodern was that it surrounded and included the modern in its very opposition to the idealism/utopism of modernism. Through Voegelin, via Plato Vermeulen and Van den Akker stake the claim that metamodernism includes but does not occupy the modern or postmodern, that instead it exists, around, through and inbetween them. What is the difference?

The clearest description Vermeulen and Van den Akker provide for the difference between the modern, postmodern, and metamodern.

“CEOs and politicians, architects, and artists alike are formulating anew a narrative of longing structured by and conditioned on a belief (“yes we can”, “change we can believe in”) that was long repressed, for a possibility (a “better” future) that was long forgotten. Indeed, if, simplistically put, the modern outlook vis-à-vis idealism and ideals could be characterized as fanatic and/or naive, and the postmodern mindset as apathetic and/or skeptic, the current generation's attitude—for it is, and very much so, an attitude tied to a generation—can be conceived of as a kind of informed naivety, a pragmatic idealism.”

Vermeulen and Van den Akker refer to Hegel’s philosophy as “positive idealism” instead of absolute idealism - the generally accepted name for Hegelian idealism - in order to oppose it to Kant’s negative idealism. I need to investigate that change. I know Hegel was reacting to Kant. Do others place the two in opposition?

Vermeulen and Van den Akker point to a rebirth of theism as a metamodern strategy in the arts via German philosopher Raoul Eshelman’s “performatism." I wonder if the word, “theism” isn't awkward as it implies a Western belief in a singular God active in the personal sense as in Western Christian evangelical practice – whereas Vermeulen and Van den Akker claim a process that is between / among other middle-eastern and eastern practices as well. Of course their own description of the metamodern allows for such inaccuracies since the metamodern is not absolute in its own metaxic performance.

A reductive reaction to Vermeulen and Van den Akker

It would appear that the postmodern used one strategy among others in the attempt to void absolutes, that is to list binary oppositions, and play with each individually and/or together. However, the “metamodern” would place these binary oppositions in a relationship to one another that can only be described as three dimensional, in motion, and where any opposition can be connected to or disconnected to any other(s) at any time. This model is much more transparent than Vermeulen and Van den Akker’s use of Delleuze and Guattari’s 2- dimensional Rhizomatic model.


*1 Vermeulen, Timotheus and Van den Akker, “Notes on Metamodernism, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture eISSN 2000-4214, on the Web at, Viewed Wednesday, 7:57 PM, May 4, 2011. This journal is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Responsible editor: Astrid Söderbergh Widding.

*2 Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix A Thousand Plateaus, trans.Brian Masumi. London and New York: Continuum (2004)

*3 Vermeulen, Timotheus and Van den Akker, “Notes on Metamodernism, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture eISSN 2000-4214, on the Web at, Viewed Wednesday, 7:57 PM, May 4, 2011. This journal is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Responsible editor: Astrid Söderbergh Widding.